Punjab government has reportedly decided to file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s order for the restoration of local bodies in the province.
According to sources, the appeal will be filed after the provincial government receives the detailed verdict and guidelines will be sought for holding new local body elections.
The move is set to disappoint the 58,000 local body representatives across Punjab, including Lahore, who were arriving at their former offices to take charge of their posts and some had even called meetings.
Amid a slow process of introducing a new local government system with repeated amendments to the proposals in order to bring them in conformity with the ground realities, the current government abolished the old local bodies system in May 2019 and sent home the elected representatives.
Commissioners and deputy commissioners were appointed as administrators of the local bodies across Punjab.
The provincial government announced at the time that the new local bodies would be elected within a year.
Lahore's 274 union councils have been abolished and 420 neighbourhood councils are being formed to replace them, but the Local Government Act 2019 is likely to be amended due to some legal, administrative and financial complications in bringing about the changes.
Under the law, the system will organized at the Tehsil level instead of districts, while Panchayats villages and neighbourhood councils in urban areas have been formed instead of union councils. The officers concerned are working on implementing the proposed system.
Under the act, the posts of mayor, deputy mayor and chairperson of district council have been abolished.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court issued orders to reinstate the local body representatives.
However, a notification for reinstating the more than 58,000 elected representatives has not yet been issued by the Punjab government.
Provincial Local Government Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal has sought guidance from the Punjab government in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government has started a series of legal consultations on the restoration of the local bodies.
Following the Supreme Court order, mayors, deputy mayors and chairpersons of district councils from all over Punjab, including Lahore, intensified their efforts to assume their powers and offices. A number of representatives reached their offices with their colleagues and the former lord mayor of Lahore has even called a meeting on Sunday.
According to sources, the government has decided that as soon as the detailed verdict of the Supreme Court is received, a review petition will be filed. Guidelines will also be sought from the Supreme Court as the ocal Government Act 2019 has been enacted under which the tehsil system has been introduced instead of district system. The departments have been divided and the whole system, including accounts, appointments of officers and zoning, has been changed. The source said rolling back the preparations made for implementing then new system would be a hard task.
The government is reportedly of the view that local body elections should be held under the new system instead of reviving the old system. The Supreme Court’s detailed order will be reviewed.
When contacted, Local Government Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal said the detailed decision of the Supreme Court regarding the restoration of the local government system was still awaited. He said the department had sought the opinion of the Punjab government on the short order. Consultation is also under way to file a review petition in the Supreme Court on the decision to reinstate the local body representatives.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2021.